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(LEAD) S. Korea to announce winners of integrated resort bids this week

2016/02/24 09:36

(ATTN: ADDS more details in para 8, photo)

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will select the winners of bids for integrated resorts with foreigner-only casinos later this week, industry sources said Wednesday, hoping to get a bigger chunk of the Asian gaming market and boost tourism.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has been reviewing proposals by bidders to give out two more casino licenses in the country, with their final presentations and a final examination set to occur from Wednesday to Friday.

The result will be announced shortly after the review process is completed, multiple sources said. The ministry has not yet released specific schedules.

In late November, six companies submitted proposals in three regions: four in Yeongjong Island, the western gateway that houses Incheon International Airport; one in Yeosu, a southwestern port city; and the other in Jinhae, a southeastern port city.

Among the candidates, only two bidders meet the investment qualification of a minimum outlay of 1 trillion won (US$811.3 million), in which at least $500 million comes from foreign investors.

The resort should have at least 1,000 five-star hotel rooms and a convention venue, as well as entertainment facilities and a shopping area. The gaming venue is limited to less than 5 percent of the total gross floor area.

A consortium by the Mohegan Sun, a U.S. casino operator, and South Korean chemicals maker KCC Corp., is vying to open a resort on the northwestern part of the island, with a proposal that starts with a $1.6 billion integrated resort and envisions $5 billion investment when completed.

Another venture by Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific and South Korean builder Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co. also submitted a $1.8 billion proposal for a resort on the northeastern island.

It is widely believed Yeongjong Island is sure to have at least one license thanks to its location. It is situated less than an hour by express subway from Seoul, and for northern Chinese cities, it is closer than Macau, a gambling paradise.

A land site on Yeongjong Island is designated for casino resorts as the government plans to give out two more licenses to boost tourism. (Yonhap file photo) A land site on Yeongjong Island is designated for casino resorts as the government plans to give out two more licenses to boost tourism. (Yonhap file photo)

Local officials have called for the government to give out licenses to proposals on Yeongjong Island, saying it would help foster a global entertainment center to compete against rival Asian cities.

For less-visited southern regions, questions remain over the feasibility for a large-scale project and candidates' execution capacity, though local politicians have stressed the need for balanced development.

Although the two sites are located near regional airports, the number of passengers falls far below that of Incheon International Airport. They are also located far from the capital city, limiting their capacity to attract local clients to non-gaming amenities.

Those who are given a license should build their resorts within four years, which would increase the number of casinos in the nation to over 20 in early 2020.

South Korea has 17 casinos with only one open to locals. Most of the current casinos are far smaller than those in Macau and Las Vegas, the world's two biggest casino markets.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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